After a long January camp, the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) played a friendly against CONCACAF rival Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter called up a roster of MLS players; they had the difficult task to take on the nation that killed their World Cup 2018 hopes. The USMNT exorcised demons as they put the beat down on T&T.
USMNT exorcised demons
After almost a month of preparation, The USMNT is ready to play their first match of the 2021 campaign. In a year that is set to be packed with different competitions, including World Cup 2022 qualifying, this team will need to be hyperfocused.
This January camp saw a squad of U-23’s training with those called up for the first team. From that group, first-team coach Gregg Berhalter picked 25 players for the friendly against Trinidad and Tobago.
The 25 players that made the game squad from those called into camp are:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United FC), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC)
This group is only MLS players and a relatively inexperienced side. January camp friendly rosters usually look like this, but when it comes to starting XI’s there is normally a mix of experienced players and newbies. That was not the case in this match.
Lineup for T&T match
Of these 25 players, 22 made the lineup for the match. The three not featuring were Jozy Altidore, Julian Araujo and JT Marcinkowski. All of them were out for different reasons. Altidore was listed out for an undisclosed precaution, Araujo due to an illness and Marcinkowski because of an injury.
The Lineup is filled with unproven players, and players who many fans wouldn’t think would be in a starting XI. Six of the players in the XI are eligible to play in Olympic qualify, which is a priority. The opportunity to play for the first team as a tune-up for that crucial campaign could be why the squad looked so inexperienced.
Berhalter had this young squad come out in a 4-3-3 formation. The task was set, beat the team that knocked you out of contention of the World Cup. This youthful squad went out and did just that!
The USMNT came out firing looking to press Trinidad and Tobago high up the field. While it looked like it T&T found a way past the press in the first minute of the match, the USA sprung a lethal counterattack. Then a quick build up out wide to left-back vines. He curled a through ball into the box toward Ferreira. His first touch rounded the keeper, then picked his head up to find Lewis wide open. Lewis picked his spot and fired into the open net. It was 1-0 USA two minutes in. The pace of play and scoring continued soon after.
Seven minutes later, T&T tried to play out of the back but was dispossessed by Arriola, He played the ball back out wide left to Lewis who found Vines’ run into the box. A quick cross found Ferreira who directed the ball into the net! After nine minutes the USMNT was up two nothing and in complete control.
13 minutes later the USA turned another quick attack. A routine headed win from a Trinidad and Tobago goal kick sprung the US forwards. Arriola played Ferreira in behind the T&T backline. Ferreira was in on the keeper; he wrong-footed the shot-stopper, but instead of shooting, he squared the ball back to Arriola. Arriola fired the ball into the gaping net and the US’s dream start kept on rolling after scoring three goals in 22 minutes.
After the first three goals, The US kept control of the match. Trinidad and Tobago produced nothing moving forward, which allowed for the US to capitalize on their mistakes. In the 41st minute, a poor T&T clearance fell to the head of Ferreira. He flicked the ball past the backline into the run of Arriola. He fired a shot that rang off the hands of the keeper, hit the post and went in! A perfect first half was capped with a fourth goal!
As the second half kicked off, Perea came in for Lletget. Perea is one of the newest members of the USMNT recently completing his one-time nation switch from Colombia to the United States. He and the USMNT started the second half where they left off. Seven minutes into the half, the USA had its fifth goal. While the US had T&T dead and buried, they continued to create chances. Acosta put a free-kick into the box and found the head of the center back Long. He squared the ball across goal to his counterpart Robinson who dove to nod home the ball. It was five to nothing USA, and the goals just kept on coming.
Two minutes later, a quick attack was created as Lewis found the ball on the left-wing. He carried it up to the box and created space for a shot. His curler had no chance of being stopped and the US added a sixth goal! If you think this is where the scoring stopped you’d be wrong. Arriola found space on the wing and saw the darting run of Ferreira, who calmly slotted home his second and the seventh goal for the USMNT. After that, a slew of substitutes came in for the US.
In the 65th minute, Dike came in for Ferreria; Mueller for Arriola; Roldan for Yueill, and Bello for Vines. Right as these subs came in and Trinidad and Tobago found a slight spark. A foul in the USMNT box off of a rare T&T attack resulted in a penalty. Alvin Jones, a player who scored back in 2017 to knock the US out of World Cup qualification, stepped up to the spot. After a straight run-up, Jones picked his spot, but so did US keeper Turner. Turner stoned Jones to keep the score at 7-0 for the USMNT.
As the match entered its final 15 minutes the US made more substitutions. Tessman came in for Herrera in the 78th minute. After that moment, the match quieted down. The USMNT kept that pressure up, however, the finishing touch was lacking. The final 10 minutes proved crucial for executing the style of play, consequently, this kept the ball away from T&T the entire match.
After a completely one-sided match, the referee was kind. Mercifully, no time was added onto the match, and the USMNT had their first win of 2021 with a 7-0 win!
This is just the beginning
While this match was against a not-full-strength T&T, it still is the way to start a year. A lopsided win from what was essentially a U-23 team will only help this team as they progress into one of the busiest years for international soccer.
This huge win will be the building block for these young players for sure, but it also sets the foundation and style of the US Men’s National Team moving into a hectic 2021. The USMNT will play in up to five competitive competitions in 2021. With the Olympic qualifying set to resume in March, the Nations League, the Gold Cup, the Tokyo Olympics should they qualify and the 2022 World Cup begins in September!
This type of win to kick off a year full of competitions is a huge confidence booster. The USMNT exorcised demons of their 2017 failure, and seem to be set on a trajectory that is only going up. Only time will tell if this continues to be the case; if this national team is able to show well in all of their competitions, then we may have to point this year as the start of something big!
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Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire